We went on a field trip to D.C. this week. If you’ve never been to D.C., then you might not get the full import of that sentence. I’ll make it simple – I’m crazy. Trying to take 3 little kids by myself into the city and actually accomplish anything is just nuts.
To get there, we either ride the Metro in or take the commuter train. Since Metro is still struggling greatly and doing track repairs, we decided to go on the commuter train. It means getting everyone up early and out the door to make the 7:48 train, but it’s worth it to avoid driving to the metro station and hoping for a parking spot. Of course, we’re generally the ONLY family on the train full of people headed to work wearing earphones – the required uniform of public transportation to help them endure sharing a seat with some random stranger who might actually want to make small talk.
So picture this: busy train full of people. Me. 3 small kids. Kids who wiggle, laugh, talk, and do normal kid things. The entire train car of people (those who can hear us through the ear buds) gets annoyed any time my kids open their mouth. And it’s about an hour ride in.
People are generally more patient on the ride in. On the way home, they’re tired. They’re stressed. They just want to go home and crash, and be with family or significant others and relax. They do NOT want to listen to my equally tired brood chatter and do normal kid things. They certainly don’t want to hear my three-year-old have a meltdown because PBS kids isn’t working, or the fight between the older kids because “he’s watching my screen!”
If you’re familiar with commuter trains at all in D.C., you might know that people scramble to fill the busy train even before rush hour. You don’t sit on the benches and expect to get a seat – you have to actually stand right up to the yellow line and wait while people pack in behind you. And because we missed the first train, we got to sit there and wait until the next one came.
He never shut up. He wasn’t misbehaving (mostly.) He wasn’t being loud or rude or bad, he was just being himself. Mile-a-minute brain firing off random synapses and asking never-ending questions. On the train platform. With 30+ people surrounding us.
This time though, we got a completely different reaction than I expected from those people surrounding us. Generally people get irritated. They huff. They roll their eyes, make judgy faces, or sometimes even say something. Not this time. This time, we were entertainment. Something like a cross between a comedy show and the educational channel, I’m guessing.
Every so often I would hear a muffled snicker, and sometimes they would even swing around to look at us and grin. Sometimes I would catch an eye and they would be fighting a smile – trying not to laugh. Sometimes I got looks of sympathy – because living with a walking question mark is exhausting, to say the least.
We covered train hydraulics. Bird habits. Random bits of science, snippets of history, word definitions, you name it. It never ended. His commentary and questions were like a non-stop stream of curiosity and intellect. I can’t blame it all on him though – because I was just as “entertaining” as he was. When I told him that the high-speed trains in Japan were designed with the belly of a penguin, wings of an owl, and beak of a kingfisher, I got a few startled, curious looks. Apparently that’s not something most people know.
When I used sarcasm to explain why we weren’t going out to buy him a new music player, I got snickers. Laughter, even. And when I used Newton’s 1st law to explain why the train couldn’t stop if he got in the way I got a few raised eyebrows. Because gifted didn’t accept “stay behind the yellow line to be safe” as a good enough reason. Logic and science made the safety rule important to him in a way that “because that’s the rule!” didn’t.
Frankly, I’m surprised that I even had enough energy to respond to him. After a full day in D.C. including a few hairy episodes (the Engineer almost got hit by a car – driver’s fault) and other issues, I was a worn out wreck. It’s not every day that you can say your three-year-old held up the president’s motorcade. Or that your six-year-old had the razor-sharp focus of a sub-machine-gun-toting security guy. (We visited the capitol building plaza.) It was a rough day. Trips to D.C. with small children always are.
Still, the ride home went well. And I’m super grateful to all the patient, helpful people who interacted with us. D.C. has a reputation that it generally lives up to, but our trip in and back was a pretty cool display of helpfulness and tolerance.
It was a nice feeling – knowing that my kid was amusing people instead of irritating them. It doesn’t happen often!